Written by Carter Capner LawUpdated on June 23, 2023
Online reviews are becoming increasingly popular in the digital age. From Yelp to Google Reviews, customers can quickly and easily share their experiences and opinions regarding businesses. While negative reviews can be useful for other consumers, they can also lead to legal complications for those who post them. You could be held legally responsible for slander and/or defamation if you post a negative review about a company.
Both slander and defamation involve making false statements about another individual or organisation. Slander is the verbal form of defamation, whereas defamation also encompasses written or printed statements. For a statement to be considered slander or defamation, it must be false and harmful to the reputation of the targeted individual or business.
Regarding online reviews, a few factors determine whether a given statement constitutes slander or defamation. The statement must initially be false. A customer cannot be held liable for slander or defamation if they post a negative review based on their own personal experience and the statements they make are true. However, if their statements are false and harmful to the business, the company may have grounds for legal action.
Second, the statement must harm the business’s reputation. This indicates that the statement must be sufficiently damaging to cause financial harm to the business. For instance, if a customer leaves a review stating that a business is dirty when it is actually clean, this may not be considered slanderous or defamatory. However, if a customer posts a review alleging that the company engages in illegal activities, this could be considered slander or defamation.
It is also important to note that businesses cannot sue customers for leaving negative reviews simply because they disagree with the customer’s opinion. However, if the customer’s statements are false and harmful to the business, the latter may have grounds for legal action.
So, what can businesses do if they believe they have been defamed or slandered? First, contact the customer and request that they remove the statement. If the client refuses, the company may be required to take legal action. This may involve filing a lawsuit or sending the customer a cease-and-desist letter.
Note that pursuing legal action can be a time-consuming and costly endeavour. In addition, there is no assurance that the company will prevail in court. In some instances, it may be preferable for a business to simply respond to a negative review and attempt to address the customer’s concerns. This can demonstrate to potential customers that the company values customer feedback and is willing to implement changes to enhance the customer experience.
In conclusion, if you post a negative review about a company and the statements made are false and damaging to the business, you could be held legally liable for slander and/or defamation. While businesses have the right to defend their good name, pursuing legal action can be time-consuming and costly, with no guarantee of success. As a customer, it is important to provide honest and accurate reviews, and as a business owner, it is essential to respond to negative feedback in a professional and constructive manner.